★★★★ @jeffekennedy @GraceDraven #AmidtheWinterSnow
Why it took me so long to get to this book I do not know. For those who haven't read this collection by 4 very talented writers, I am not sure if it is possible to buy this anthology anymore. These stories are magical and romantic. They pull me into a rich world of fantasy, danger, magic and yearning. Authors Grace Draven, Thea Harrison, Jeffe Kennedy and Elizabeth Hunter are the Fantastic Four.
Kicking off the book is The Darkest Midnight by Grace Draven. This is an ugly duckling-esque story with Jahna being born with a dark pigmentation on her face. Even though her family is of high rank, there are still the "mean" girls who bully and pick on her. To no surprise, there are males who consider to bed her as long as her head is covered or faced away from them. How...disgusting. It seems humans are cruel no matter the setting. For Jahna, her world is turned around when her father hires an Ilinfan sword master to teach her brother. I loved this story because it is one of empowerment. Through the care of her family and Radimar, the swordmaster, Jahna grows in self confidence and the ability to take care of herself. This romance is delightful because it does not force Jahna to choose between the job she wants and the man she loves. This is a beautifully woven tale of Jahna's coming of age.
The Chosen by Thea Harrison keeps me on the edge of my seat. I love the intrigue as well as the high fantasy setting. Magic, chosen ones and weird crossovers into "Earth" fascinate me. I am not sure what series this one is in but the world building is fantastic. I want to learn more about this world and I especially want to know what happens to Lily. Lily is a force to be reckon with and she's good at pulling a tiger's tail as well as petting a wolf's belly. Whilst this could be seen as an enemies to lover theme, I think it's more a power couple falling for each others theme.
The Storm by Elizabeth Hunter started out rough for me. The countries it is set in and some of the world building is of no interest to me. I thought about skipping this story and moving on to Ms. Kennedy since that is the reason why I have this anthology. I am glad I stuck with this story because it ended up being moving and more poignant compared to all the stories. Renata's journey to forgiveness and letting go is not easy and it comes from the least expected place. Luckily for her, Maxim never gives up on her and this story brings a theme of hope, renewal and rebuilding.
Lastly, we enter back into the Twelve (Thirteen) Kingdoms and I finally learn how Ash comes to be with Amelia. This story is a teasing tidbit with adorable shifter children and a slumbering dragon. The erotic scenes are deliciously sweet and sexy.
This anthology is highly recommended to readers who want a book with high romance, well written characters and intriguing plots.